Monday, January 20, 2014

Non-Fiction Review: 'What Would Audrey Do?' by Pamela Keogh

THE DETAILS:
Pages: 272
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-help/Biography
First Published: 01/01/2008
Publisher: Gotham Books
Bought it online.

THE DESCRIPTION:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Audrey Stylecomes a charming guide to Audrey Hepburn?inspired living for the modern woman

Audrey Hepburn epitomized grace and style, not only in her appearance but in her very essence. Whether in fashion, relationships, her work on the screen, or for UNICEF and her home life, there is no one more worthy of imitation.

How did she do it? What Would Audrey Do? is the answer: a complete Audrey primer, with rich anecdotes and insight from the people who knew her best, and Audrey-inspired lessons in loveliness, including:

· Dating advice from the woman who enjoyed romances with John F. Kennedy, William Holden, and Albert Finney
· What made her an icon, and how to apply her style choices to twenty-first-century clothes, makeup, and accessories
· Raising children, trying to raise husbands, and making home life balanced in every way
· How to travel, what to pack, and maintaining your cool on the road
· Using renown (long before Angelina and Bono got all the press) to help others around the world
· Insight into her rich interior life and the discipline, intelligence, and generosity that made her so compelling

In an era fraught with selfishness, flamboyance, and sensational headlines, Audrey as a role model is precisely what the world needs.

MY THOUGHTS:
I bought this book from Modcloth as part of my first purchase from that site. Being a bit of an Audrey fan, I loved the premise of this book. I was hoping to learn some cool Audrey facts and thought a few life lessons wouldn't go astray. I've been reading this on and off for a fair while now; mostly before bed.

Yes, before bed, because this book did make a little tired. The pace was slow; which sounds weird because it's a biography, but when a book is jumping all over the place chronologically it sometimes feels like you are going nowhere. A lot of the subject matter was all over the place too. Even though the chapters were categorised around a subject for life lessons, there were parts that didn't really seem to fit; there was a lot of overlap and repetition. 

I have to admit that I did learn a few cool facts about Audrey. I'm glad to say that she wasn't as perfect or conventional as a lot of us thought she was and yeah, for me that's good thing. However, there were some really pointless and uninteresting facts shared with us for the sake of the life-lessons, And, some of the facts were repeated so much throughout the book that they were no longer of any interest to me. This book was definitely more self-help than biography.

One of the things that bothered me about the book was that there seemed to be a bit of a stretch with what was actually supposed to be based on Audrey. We learnt about William Holden's death (relevance? they were in what, one movie together?), we learned about all of the people that Audrey's favourite designer had designed for (was it a designer? someone along those lines) and there seemed to be a lot of name-dropping. There were also life lessons based on Holly go-lightly, which was a character played by Audrey and written by Truman Capote...

While there were some good life lessons, I felt that a lot of these were meant for socialites and aspiring actresses. Like I said earlier, some of the life lessons were not even based on Audrey (Is the book not called 'What would Audrey do?' ?) and I found a lot of these lessons to be speculative. For example, "Audrey didn't have a (insert item here), but if she had she would've (done whatever)". 

I felt like this book was really based on the idea of Audrey, rather than Audrey herself. Sure, I learned things about Audrey that I didn't know before, but all of the speculative stuff really reinforces the Holly-go-lightly actress and do-gooder aspect of Audrey Hepburn, that is so well known to most of us. And, at times I felt like this was more of a guide on how to copy this stereotyped version of Audrey than it was a guide in life lessons. Don't get me wrong, I am all for fashion tips and life lessons, but suggesting that readers celebrate Audrey's birthday by eating breakfast at Tiffany's (like hello, Truman Capote) and that they donate to UNICEF (I'd rather it just said, do something charitable) is just a bit over the top for my liking. I almost felt like I was going to find out what Audrey's political views were and be told to vote that way.  

Overall, I think this book is about 2 stars out of 5. And, that is being generous. Yeah, there were some cool things, but I felt like this should have been called 'How to be Holly' rather than 'What would Audrey do?'. I think I would have preferred that the writer made the book smaller and left out all of the speculation and name-dropping. I understand that because Audrey was such a private person it was probably a bit difficult to find out a lot of information, but I just don't think speculation was the answer to that problem. Like I said, the premise was good.



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1 comment:

Jessica Cangiano said...

Very interesting that you thought 'What Would Holly Do' would suit this book better. I've not read it yet myself, so I can't comment on it from that perspective, but based on your review, I agree that it does sound like such a title might have summed things up more accurately. You've piqued my interest now about it and I'll have to see if our little local library has it or can bring it in.

♥ Jessica